Floating Weeds (Ukigusa)

Floating Weeds

Everything changes. It’s the way of the world.

Two Yasujiro Ozu films down, one to go. Ozu seems to be a fan of remakes, since the last one of his I saw was a remake, as well as this one. Floating Weeds, or Ukigusa, is a remake of his early 1930s picture A Story of Floating Weeds, which I haven’t seen, and thus can’t provide comparison to. I can, however, compare this one to the other two Ozu films I’ve seen, which while very nice, never seemed to grasp at anything approaching true greatness. Ukigusa has much in common with Ozu’s other works, namely the style and formatting of the filmmaking itself, but thankfully I found that the film didn’t repeat the same topics that his other films had already covered; at least, not in the same way.

This one centers of a troupe of kabuki theater players as they arrive in their owner, Komajuro’s, hometown, where he has a previous mistress and a grown son between them, who thinks Komajuro is actually his uncle. The main plot follows Komajuro and his son Kiyoshi as Komajuro’s current mistress attempts to sabotage his relationship with his prior mistress and his son. There are a few subplots involving the other actors in the theater troupe and the various women they meet in town, pretty much to flesh out the story a little more, but it generally works to the film’s benefit. I liked that the film seemed to have more of an actual plot to it, rather than just setting up the characters and seeing what happens to them like his other films. I also highly appreciated the setting of this one, which was just different enough from his other work to not feel like I was watching a redundant Ozu film. The films I’ve seen of Ozu’s up to now have been very family oriented, and largely took place within the homes of the domestic family in question, so to have one of his films follow a kabuki theater troupe around, with it’s far-from-domestic lifestyle and colorful theatricality, was a nice change of pace; enough so that my hesitance of having to sit through another Ozu film was lessened considerably. That said, one glance at the underworkings of this one, and the fact that it’s an Ozu film is readily apparent; the construction of the shots so that the focal point is almost always in the center of the frame, the intercutting between the lines of the script only when the actors have finished speaking, it was all typical Ozu handiwork. The music did help connect the otherwise disjointed scenes rather well, so I was thankful for that.

I assumed I’d have to sit through this one just for the sake of getting through it, so it was quite to my surprise that I ended up enjoying it as much as I did. Hell, this might even be my favorite of the Ozu films I’ve seen thus far, and considering the stature of Tokyo Story, that’s definitely something surprising for me to say. I’m glad this is on the list, and that I saw it, and I’m pretty sure that, given some time on it, I could come up with a good argument for why this indeed should be on there. I’m a little sad that Ozu’s life and career in color films ended up as short as it was, as this one had given me a lot of hope and a lot to look forward to from his other color works, of which there are now sadly few. Still, even if I don’t ever get to them, I always have this one to remember fondly as a solidly satisfying picture.

Arbitrary Rating: 8/10

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